MWC Barcelona AirborneRF

Our Key takeaways from MWC Barcelona regarding drones

MWC Barcelona is the main event for the telecommunications and connectivity ecosystems. During this event, technology, community and commerce stakeholders come together to highlight the most important achievements the industry has made over the last year.

MWC Barcelona hosts tens of thousands of influential and forward-thinking leaders that range from mobile operators, device manufacturers, technology providers and vendors, among others. It’s also the place where businesses can come together to collaborate and make valuable connections to further their organisational goals.

This year’s event explored the themes of 5G acceleration, Reality+, OpenRAN, Digital Everything and FinTech.

How does MWC Barcelona empower drone industry stakeholders?

MWC Barcelona every year provides a platform for the drone industry to network and connect with the telecommunications industry. Drone industry decision-makers have the chance to highlight the innovativeness of their products and services while executives in the connectivity industry are able to better understand how drones fit into their organisational strategies and plans.

During the event, drone operators and software providers were able to explain the connection between the telecommunications industry and mobile network operators and their role in the advancement of the industry. Those who were not yet familiar with the connection between drones and mobile operators were also exposed to system integrators like Accenture, IBM, Ericsson, Nokia, TechMahindra, Wipro, Infosys and HCL which all have drone-specific offerings.

Latest Trend: System integrators moving into the drone industry

While Accenture didn’t highlight their current drone-related projects at MWC, they did publish a video with the Essen Innovation Hub where they showcased the efficiency of tower and industrial inspections with drones.

IBM had a feature on their booth dedicated to drones and their ability to create digital twins in the telecommunications industry. With LiDar sensors, they can scan current towers and produce accurate digital 3D reconstructions. They also have a software program that can add additional features to these digital models and ongoing lifecycle support through continuous monitoring.

Ericsson presented their new solution called Ericsson Drone Mobility (EDM), which is a cloud-based platform that allows enterprise drones to fly beyond the visual line of sight (BVLOS). This is achieved through telco-grade encryption and data security solutions that allow real-time decision-making for enterprises. They created the solution after looking at the challenges faced by the industry, like how most drones cannot be controlled from more than 3-5 km from the operator. Their EDM platform utilises Telecom Network Intelligence to provide safe drone fleet operations through a platform that enables live streaming of drone data via computers or mobile devices and can automatically notify authorities of planned drone missions.

Nokia also presented a similar endeavour called Nokia Drone Networks, which is an end-to-end solution for drone operations powered by the Nokia Digital Automation Cloud. The solution allows for multiple drones to fly on automated missions controlled by a single ground control station running on their edge cloud platform. The drones can be equipped with various payloads, such as cameras, sensors, searchlights and loudspeakers, which can be used for a variety of use cases. The drones are connected over a private wireless 4G or 5G network, ensuring they remain unaffected by congestion in the public network. The solution aims to reduce operational costs and drive value by automating security and inspection workflows. Following a previous announcement, Rohde & Schwarz showcased their drone measurement capabilities at MWC.

What are this years MWC Barcelona 4 key takeaways regarding drones?

5G monetization

5G technology is becoming more widespread, but the potential of 5G monetization, as we mentioned above, and identifying which use cases for drones require 5G remains a crucial topic for discussion. For mobile network operators (MNOs), the pursuit of new business and monetization opportunities is essential. Private networks and private-public networks are also gaining attention, particularly in relation to drone and aerial robotics operations.

The use of private networks allows for increased security and reliability in data transfer, making it a hot topic for businesses that require high levels of data privacy and protection. With the rise of drone technology across various industries, including public safety, agriculture and construction, the need for secure and reliable private networks is becoming increasingly important.

Digital airspace

The integration of cellular connectivity and aviation is becoming increasingly more important as drone operations require cellular networks for efficient and safe operations. SK Telecom is one example of an organisation leading the way in this area by showcasing UAV and cellular-enabled inspection drones. These drones are equipped with cellular technology, allowing them to connect to the internet and enabling real-time data transfer, which is essential for collecting information during inspections.

Industry consortia

Alaian consortium is composed of eight major global telecommunications companies that have come together in a unique alliance with the mission of reinventing the industry by discovering the most disruptive startups. These start-ups will have the potential to provide access to a network of 700 million customers.

The Alaian consortium is continuing to grow, with the recent addition of STC as its latest member. Since its foundation, the consortium has been expanding, with NOS being the most recent addition before STC. As an Alaian innovation winner, we are particularly excited about the group’s growth and the potential for increased innovation and collaboration within the consortium.

Digital services: beyond connectivity

While connectivity remains a key focus for the telecommunications industry, investments in adjacent business services have become a top priority. This includes industrial applications, IoT solutions and other digital services that go beyond traditional connectivity. There is an increasing need for telecommunications companies to diversify their offerings and provide more value to customers.

One emerging area of focus is drones and digital airspace services, which are expected to be a key driver of growth in the industry in the upcoming future. Use cases include providing secure and reliable data transfer, enabling real-time communication between drones and operators, and offering innovative solutions to address the unique challenges of aerial robotics.

Are you a mobile network operator looking to join the drone industry? Contact us, and we’ll explain how you can start using your network to empower drone operators.